Background: β-lactamase conjugated with environment-sensitive fluorescein molecule to residue 166 on the ω-loop near its catalytic site is a highly effective biosensor for β-lactam antibiotics. Yet the molecular mechanism of such fluorescence-based biosensing is not well understood. Results: Here we report the crystal structure of a Class A β-lactamase PenP from Bacillus licheniformis 749/C with fluorescein conjugated at residue 166 after E166C mutation, both in apo form (PenP-E166Cf) and in covalent complex form with cefotaxime (PenP-E166Cf-cefotaxime), to illustrate its biosensing mechanism. In the apo structure the fluorescein molecule partially occupies the antibiotic binding site and is highly dynamic. In the PenP-E166Cf-cefatoxime complex structure the binding and subsequent acylation of cefotaxime to PenP displaces fluorescein from its original location to avoid steric clash. Such displacement causes the well-folded ω-loop to become fully flexible and the conjugated fluorescein molecule to relocate to a more solvent exposed environment, hence enhancing its fluorescence emission. Furthermore, the fully flexible ω-loop enables the narrow-spectrum PenP enzyme to bind cefotaxime in a mode that resembles the extended-spectrum β-lactamase. Conclusions: Our structural studies indicate the biosensing mechanism of a fluorescein-labelled β-lactamase. Such findings confirm our previous proposal based on molecular modelling and provide useful information for the rational design of β-lactamase-based biosensor to detect the wide spectrum of β-lactam antibiotics. The observation of increased ω-loop flexibility upon conjugation of fluorophore may have the potential to serve as a screening tool for novel β-lactamase inhibitors that target the ω-loop and not the active site.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Structural Biology